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Month: December 2018

How to Book American Airlines Award Tickets With Chase And Amex Points

There are numerous American Airlines branded credit cards and I’ve had several of them in my credit card points game career, but in most cases, the best cards are ones that earn transferable points, i.e. they are flexible.

If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points (earned through a “premium” card like the Sapphire or Ink) or American Express Membership Rewards points, you can transfer them to numerous hotel and airline programs. So then when you are planning a vacation, you can search for reward nights and flights across a variety of brands and find the best bang for your points. But American Airlines is not a transfer partner of either Chase or Amex. But don’t despair!

British Airways is a transfer partner and since American Airlines and British Airways are both part of the oneworld alliance, you can book American flights through British Airways after transferring your Chase or Amex points to BA at a 1:1 ratio (sometimes even as good as 1:1.5 when Amex runs bonus offers). The great thing about using British Airways Avios (their reward currency) toward American flights is you can often score some sweet deals, especially on short haul nonstop flights.

Any flight* of less than 1,150 miles can be had for 7,500 Avios. So you can fly from New York to Miami for what is essentially $75 worth of points when looking at the cash value of redeeming points for straight cash back or a statement credit. To book the same flight with American Airlines points would cost 12,500 miles.

Another huge benefit of booking AA flights with Avios: there is no close-in booking fee. Book an American flight with AA miles within 21 days of departure and you need to pony up a $75 fee. And that just ain’t cool. You can book the same flight with Avios, even just a few hours before takeoff and there’s no fee.

* Any flight that has seats available at the MileSAAver level when you search for reward flights on the American Airlines website.If you see they are available at the Super Saver level, then they should be available to book on the BA website. Frankly the BA website is awful and glitchy so I highly recommend searching for flights on AA first.

My wife and I flew business class on American to Cancun for our honeymoon in 2012 by redeeming 20,000 Avios + $20-30 in taxes. No way we would have paid $400 in cash for that one-way flight, but that’s the beauty of this game: you can live large in business class with those hot towels, a nice three-course meal and all the alcohol you can drink included and you barely spent a dime out of your own pocket.

 

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Disney With Points: 2 Credit Card Bonuses Cover Flights/Hotel For Family of 4

Disney World is expensive. But the pain of paying more than $100 a ticket to get into a theme park can be eased a bit if your airfare and hotel are free of charge. And it’s really quite easy to pull off with just two credit card signup bonuses.

Now this will be easiest for people who live near an airport served by Southwest. It’s also not going to be much help for those who insist on staying at Disney World owned resorts. You can’t use points for those. Now my wife will argue that the perks that come with staying on a Disney property are worth the cost. But I will argue that free is free so the Hyatt Place it is. (But seriously, Hyatt Places are great. Free breakfast and not just shitty cereals!)

Any way, here’s how to pull this off:

  1. Apply for the Chase Southwest Business Premier card here. Just like the Chase Ink I wrote about in an earlier post, it’s obviously a business card, but many things count as a business. The bonus here is 60,000 Southwest points after spending $3K in three months. You do need to pay the $99 annual fee upfront. As long as your dates are flexible (i.e. you don’t insist on leaving on the Saturday at the start of winter break), those points are likely enough to get a family of four roundtrip airfare to Disney. As an example, I can book 4 roundtrip tickets from Islip MacArthur to Orlando leaving on Feb. 26, 2019 and returning on March 5, 2019 for 48,000 points plus $44 in taxes. If I paid cash for those tickets, it would come to $775.
  2. Apply for the Chase Hyatt card here. This one gets you 40,000 Hyatt points after spending $3K in the first three months and then another 20,000 points after you spend a total of $6K within the first 6 months. Same deal with the annual fee here. It’s $95 and it will appear on your first statement. Those 60,000 points can get you 7 free nights in this lovely Hyatt Place near Universal Studios. To pay cash for 7 nights at that hotel comes to $1,158.

So basically pay a couple hundred in annual fees and $44 in taxes and get nearly $2,000 worth of travel value from just two credit cards! And that’s why I love the points game. Now once you get to Disney, all bets are off and you spend all of your money on autograph book pens that your 4-year-old daughter will keep breaking.

I will eventually devote an entire post on Chase’s 5/24 rule, which basically means you can’t be approved for a Chase card if you have opened more than 4 credit cards from any bank in the last two years, but for now, make sure to check out this post on the Points Guy if you do plan on applying for several cards in the near future.

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Barclay Arrival Plus Review: New 70,000-Mile Bonus Worth $700 in Travel

The Barclay Arrival Plus recently upped its signup bonus to 70,000 miles if you spend $5,000 in three months. Now right off the bat, this card is worth getting at least for a year. Those 70,000 miles are worth $700 in statement credits toward travel purchases. The annual fee of $89 is waived for the first year.

But let’s look a deeper. Is this a card worth keeping for the long haul?

Pros:

  • You get 2x miles on every purchase. You also get 5% of your miles back whenever you redeem miles toward a travel purchase so it’s basically a 2.1% cash back card. That’s pretty damn good.
  • You can use your miles toward any travel purchase. You don’t need to transfer them to airline or hotel programs to try to get the best value for your points. These miles are cut and dry. Say you book a $700 flight on Expedia. Once that purchase hits your Arrival card, you can go in and redeem 70,000 points to wipe out the $700. You will then get 3,500 miles back in your account as the redemption bonus.

Cons:

  • You can only redeem miles toward purchases of $100 or more. So if you book at hotel that’s $95 a night, sorry you are out of luck. This limitation is annoying to say the least. The Capital One Venture, for example, lets you redeem miles for any travel purchase regardless of the amount.
  • $89 annual fee
  • The Barclay website is awful

Verdict: Cancel it after a year and stick with the Venture or the Fidelity Visa, both of which offer 2 percent cash back as your everyday card. But certainly get that big 70,000 miles bonus and then cancel before the annual fee hits in year 2. Apply here for the Arrival. Note that Barclay is a bit credit sensitive, i.e. if you plan on applying for a bunch of cards over the next year, this is one you want to apply to first.

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A $300 Checking Account Bonus With Minimal Effort? Yes, Please

After my last post on checking account bonuses, I was ready to get back to credit cards, but hold the presses! There’s a new $300 checking account offer out there that you are going to want to apply for if you like money. The bank is Santander. Yes, they are legit. No, I had never heard of them before I applied for an account last year solely to get a bonus.

Here’s the how to:

  1. Open an eligible new checking account by 12/31/2018 with the promotion code: DIGBONUS300DMP (DO NOT FORGET TO ENTER THE CODE)
  2. Have direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more post within the first 90 days, starting the first business day after opening the account.
  3. Keep your account open for at least 90 days and open at the time of the bonus payment.
  4. Once you meet these conditions, your $300 bonus will be paid.

Apply for an account here. The offer is only available to residents of NH, MA, RI, CT, DE, NY, NJ, or PA.

A couple things to note: you can close the account once the bonus hits, but it will likely take the full 90 days for you to get it. There’s a $10 monthly fee, but man oh man is it easy to avoid. One transaction a month of any kind keeps it fee free. I just set up a $1 bill payment each month to one of my credit cards and then just waited for the bonus to hit. As I tell my 2-year-old when he’s scared of his shirt going over his head: easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Oh, another bonus, you can fund the checking account with up to $500 from a credit card. So if you have a CC that you need to hit a minimum spend requirement on it, this is a great way to knock out $500 of it.

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Yes, Bank Account Bonuses Are A Thing Too

I will admit I got a bit carried away with bank account bonuses last year. M&T Bank was offering a $200-$250 bonus for signing up for an account and making a couple direct deposits. But here’s the thing: you could just keep creating accounts under the same name and address and get the bonus over and over again. Sadly, M&T Bank cracked down on this and you can now only get the bonus once per year. It’s probably for the best though as at one point I had about 20 checking accounts open between my wife and I and it was getting a bit nuts trying to keep track of all of them.

Most bank account bonuses have similar requirements: you make XX number of direct deposits and then you wait XX number of days and you get the bonus. In many cases, if you close the account before 3-6 months, they will hit you with an early termination fee. But I’d say just by doing the 3-4 best offers, you can easily make $1,000 for not a whole lot of time/effort and that’s the point of the game.

One thing to keep in mind about bank account bonuses: unlike credit card bonuses, they are counted as interest income. So for each one you do, you will receive a 1099 form and will need to pay taxes on the bonus. Now it’s not that much. For a $300 bonus, you might pay $50 in taxes max so still a pretty sweet deal.

Here are three of the top bonuses out there right now:

  1. Chase- This one is pretty much the holy grail. Chase is a huge bank and many people already have a Chase account. If you don’t, open one now! The requirements for the $300 bonus are simple: Open a Total Checking account with a deposit of $25 or more. Have a direct deposit hit your account within 60 days. Wait 10 business days for the bonus to post.  You do need to keep the account open for 6 months or Chase will take back the bonus. There is a $12 monthly service fee that is waived if you either have $500 or more in direct deposits to the account each month or keep a $1,500 balance. Of course you could just do nothing and pay the $60 in service fees over 6 months (the first month is often waived automatically) and then cancel the account. You’d still pocket $240. Apply here.
  2. TD Bank- Another $300 offer. Open a TD Premier checking account and receive direct deposits of $2,500 or more within 60 days to get the bonus. That’s a decent chunk of change. If you can’t make that work, there is also a $150 bonus if you make direct deposits of $500 or more within 60 days. The bonus will post 30-90 days after you complete the direct deposits. Probably toward the lower end of that range. There’s a $25 monthly fee for the Premier account that is waived with a $2,500 minimum daily balance. The $15 monthly fee on the account with the $150 bonus is waived with just a $100 balance. There’s no early cancellation fee at TD so once you get the bonus, you are free to cancel right away. TD bonuses are available in the following states:CT, DC, DE, FL, MD, ME, MA, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VT, & VA. Apply here.
  3. M&T Bank – Most people probably have never heard of M&T Bank. I sure hadn’t until I got a mortgage through them. But they sure have a great checking account signup bonus! $250 bonus for setting up a direct deposit of $500 or more within 90 days of opening. Make sure to use promo code TL when signing up. The best part about this bonus is it usually posts within a couple days after the direct deposit hits. Keep the account open for 6 months or pay a $50 fee. Avoid the $15 monthly service fee by having a $2,500 average balance or at least $1,500 per month in direct deposits. Apply here.
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